Special to California Business Journal.
If you’re not online as a business, you’re nowhere. Maintaining a strong online presence can be an expensive prospect, but if you want to keep up with how business is done and how potential customers find your business, it’s nothing short of imperative. Not only do you need a great, well designed and intuitive website, you also need a presence on mobile and, perhaps most important of all, social media platforms. Let’s take a quick look at some of the more common mistakes businesses make when updating their online presence or entering the online arena.
The web has evolved from what it was a few short years ago, and the underlying technology that powers it is constantly evolving too. Simply relying on your old website built a decade ago isn’t going to cut it. You need to update the look and feel of your website and get it built on modern technologies and development languages or content management systems. Not only does this make your website easier and quicker to update, it keeps your online presence up to date with the trends online.
If you don’t have any experience in web design, you might consider an easy to use CMS with a huge presence like WordPress, which is infinitely configurable and scalable and keeps up to date with the requirements of modern browsers, no matter the platform.
One of these important updates around websites is the use of a responsive design language. Users of your website are going to be arriving on your website using any number of different web browsers, operating systems, screen resolutions and devices. What looks great on a computer screen might not scale well to a mobile screen. Using responsive design means that your website will look great no matter what device your customer is using. Not making use of responsive design might see your potential customers looking for an alternative if they can’t navigate or use your website.
Letting your new website, app or creation into the wild online world without sufficient testing and quality assurance is a big gamble. Users want to interact with platforms or use apps that are well designed, intuitive and easy to use. Global App Testing, a company that is built around the idea that testing thoroughly and considering the user experience as the most important part of any change to online presence has some great material on manual testing. You can read more on manual testing here.
Social media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool full of potential. It allows you to directly market to an audience and let your customers engage with your brand in meaningful and emotional ways. It gives you a chance to prove your service is excellent by interacting favorably with your customers and creating content they want to engage with.
Social media platforms fall in and out of favor constantly. Only the biggest are constant, like Twitter and Facebook. Pay attention to the social media platform of the moment – like the rise of Instagram or Pinterest and use them to your advantage.
It might be one of the most inconspicuous things you’re ever going to come across, but not having your email use a branded domain is something your customers or potential customers are going to notice immediately. They probably won’t notice if your email address is branded, but that’s a good thing! Making use of a free online email service which uses their domain, like Gmail, is a blow to the professional image of your company. It costs almost nothing to make use of a custom domain. Match this domain to that of your website to ensure your communication channels are uniform.
Local search is big business, and for good reason. Being near the top of the search results when someone in the area your business operates in or has a branch in is important and thus you should spend some time focusing on local search. If someone searches for a business that can fulfil their needs with the intention of finding one nearby, your local search ranking and results are going to be the difference between getting their business and not.
For Google, you can make use of tools like Google My Business (GMB), which will enable you to do this with relative ease. It also allows you to add business information like operating hours or contact information right onto the search results page. Many search engines offer these same tools.
Everyone that spends any time online knows the frustration of trying to find business information online and reaching a website that was last update ten years ago, full of old product and contact info that doesn’t have any value. Similarly, finding a social media profile that has been abandoned by the company that created it is just as frustrating, if not more so. Apart from being uncontactable, there’s nobody monitoring what users visiting this profile might be saying about your business and no way to control the narrative that could be spreading. Thanking those leaving kind words and actioning the complaints of those that might not have had a good experience are both incredibly important to your online profile and presence.
As you can tell, there is plenty to think about when designing a strategy to update or run your business online presence. A web search is absolutely the most common way people are going to find your company’s contact details, and if they need more information, your website is going to be their second stop. These are both the bare minimums required for your business to have a presence online. You’re going to be missing out on golden marketing opportunities if you neglect social media though, so spend some time learning from other business mistakes and get your online and social strategy ready and actioned.